About‎ > ‎

What is Peer Mediation?

Put simply, peer mediation is conflict resolution for young people by young people, typically in an educational setting.  They are trained in the process and skills needed to mediate between two parties neutrally.  Instead of telling the people in conflict what to do, they listen to each person in conflict, and help them find their own solution.

Peer Mediators operate in primary and secondary schools around the UK, as well as North America, Japan and New Zealand.

The precise peer mediation process may vary based on age and other factors, but in its essence it mirrors that used by adults. Those in dispute voluntarily undertake to talk through a conflict in a discussion facilitated by the peer mediators. Peer mediators operate in pairs, and are typically available according to a rota in school. Ground rules are established to promote a respectful discussion, both disputants have the opportunity to described what has happened, how they feel and what they need, before finally reaching a mutual agreement. During the process, the peer mediators listen and echo what is said, but remain neutral; they do not judge, take sides or impose a solution.

Peer Mediation skills include teamwork, not taking sides, knowing how to listen and understanding feelings. Peer mediators practise repeating back the story they have heard without "blaming language", which would reveal a bias. They also practise being assertive, effective questioning, supportive body-language and finishing a difficult mediation.

Peer mediation has been reported to deliver a range of benefits in schools: the mediators acquire life skills in conflict resolution; adult time is freed-up from "refereeing" arguments; students at large find more durable resolutions and become more conscious of conflict resolution through dialogue via their participation .
It has been shown to reduce the number of harmful incidents recorded in school during break and lunchtime, and the process enjoys a robust success-rate according to student disputants. 

A student who went to peer mediation in Sheffield said: "I went into mediation because I used to get things said to me. The peer mediators were really helpful, they said how we could sort it out and we both came up with ideas and now I don’t get things said to me any more."

Peer mediation has also been identified as reducing bullying. While it is widely agreed that peer mediation as a direct response to bullying is inappropriate, just as adult mediation can be problematic where power is unequal, it is felt to be preventative.  A UK survey of schools showed teaching staff felt peer mediation was the most effective peer-led strategy to reduce bullying. Where bullying is manifest, a restorative justice conference may be used instead of peer mediation.

Read the best practice standards from the Peer Mediation Network to see what to consider when beginning a journey in mediation.